Four miners died after a seismic event at Sibanye-Stillwater's Masakhane mine in Driefontein. Picture: Mathews Baloyi/ANA

Johannesburg - South Africa's mineral resources department on Friday urged Sibanye-Stillwater to pay greater attention to health and safety after four workers died following a seismic event at the company's Masakhane mine in Driefontein.

Sibanye Stillwater said six other employees were in hospital, and efforts were continuing to locate three workers still unaccounted for. Operations at the Masakhane shaft had been suspended, the company added.

The minerals department said the gold sector had seen an increase in fatalities this year, with Sibanye-Stilwater as one of the main contributors.

Read: 13 miners trapped underground at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Masakhane mine

4 workers killed at Masakhane mine, says Sibanye-Stillwater

"This suggests that greater attention be paid to issues of safety, particularly the protection of the lives of workers, as opposed to the insistence of chasing production," it said.

The department said its health and safety inspectors were on site as rescue operations continued for the workers still trapped underground.

It said seismic incidents accounted for about 30 percent of fatalities in 2017, and minister Gwede Mantashe had consequently directed a team which includes rock engineers and seismicity experts, to urgently investigate "in order to assist the industry to better anticipate and deal with seismic activities".

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which has previously accused Sibanye-Stillwater of negligence, said it was angry at Thursday's incident, the latest in a series of mishaps in recent months at the company's operations that have left workers killed, injured or trapped.

It called for "more serious intervention" to take place at Sibanye Stillwater operations in South Africa.

African News Agency/ANA